The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
7-30-09

TWO LONG ISLAND MUNICIPALITIES SUED FOR AGE BIAS

EEOC Says Firefighters Over 62 Barred From Receiving Retirement Service Credits

NEW YORK – In two separate lawsuits filed today, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged municipalities in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, with discriminating against older volunteer firefighters because of their age in violation of federal law.

The lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York are EEOC v. Oyster Bay Fire Dept., CV-09-3297 and EEOC v. Brentwood Fire Dept., CV-09-3298. The EEOC charges the respondents with refusing to allow volunteer firefighters over the age of 62 to accrue credit toward a Length of Service Award Program, the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age. As a result, senior firefighters lost pension amounts after they turned 62, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the EEOC charges in the litigation.

The first suit was filed against the Town of Oyster Bay, the Oyster Bay Fire Department, the Atlantic Steamer Fire Co. No. 1, Incorporated Village of Oyster Bay Cove, Incorporated Village of Laurel Hollow, Incorporated Village of Mill Neck, and Incorporated Village of Cove Neck, all located in Nassau County. The second suit was filed against the Brentwood Fire District and Brentwood Fire Department in Suffolk County. The EEOC sued the municipalities after first attempting to reach voluntary settlements out of court.

“These cases should remind all employers that federal law prohibits targeting older workers for discriminatory treatment, including in relation to pensions or retirement benefits,” said EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “Volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect the public. They don’t deserve discrimination in return for their brave service.”

The EEOC seeks a ruling that each respondent violated the law by refusing to allow older firefighters to earn service credit. The EEOC asks the court to award affected firefighters lost pension credits and a recalculated service award, interest, and an award equal to the service award, in the form of doubling that amount, or liquidated damages.

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Sunu P. Chandy said, “Firefighters, who volunteer to help people in need, are entitled to fair retirement benefits that are calculated solely based on their service, without regard to their age. These public service employees are entitled to receive the same retirement benefits as younger workers.”

The EEOC has filed five previous lawsuits alleging that Long Island fire departments have discriminated against older firefighters because of age.

Earlier this month, the Commission held a public hearing on age discrimination and barriers to the employment of older workers. Additional information about the hearing can be found on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/meetings/7-15-09/index.html.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.

This page was last modified on July 30, 2009.

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